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It can be a daunting task for parents to come up with new ways to keep their kids entertained on the weekends, especially when they factor in the costs of a fun getaway.
A simple trip to the movies can cost a family of four $50 or more just for tickets and a couple of snacks and drinks.
What’s a budget-conscious family to do?
The following activities won’t only save you some money on family fun; they won’t cost you a cent. What’s great about these activities is that they’ll challenge you and your family to start thinking outside the box when it comes to family fun.
It won’t take you long to start really exploring free things to do in your neighborhood and nearby spots. I’ve found that free activities are usually the most fun too.
When you go free, you’re getting back to the simple pleasures in life that create one-of-a-kind bonding opportunities between you and your kids.
Stop spending and start having fun by snatching up these free family weekend opportunities.
1. Browse Local Facebook Events
I’m listing this first because it’s my absolute favorite way to find free events in my area. This is especially helpful for families who live in small towns and rural areas to find fun things to do when there aren’t many family-friendly attractions around.
Head to the Events section of Facebook and filter the events by your town or those nearby, and hit ‘This Weekend’. I’ve found things like free concerts, painting classes, and events at a local bakery by browsing Facebook events.
Also, pay attention to your News Feed! You’ll see other events that your friends are interested in or attending, too.
2. Have a Race
Do you have a running track in your town that locals can access? If you aren’t sure, check with your local schools and see what times the track is open to the public. On a nice day, dress the family up in its best athletic gear and head to the track for a family-friendly race.
My local track is open to the public from dawn until dusk, save for any track meets, of course. I take my kids there almost every weekend to walk, run, and just enjoy the sunshine.
We’ve even taken picnic lunches there to enjoy after we work up a good sweat together!
3. Grab Some Free Education
I can’t stress it enough: if you look hard enough, your neighborhood is probably chock-full of fun, educational opportunities for you and your family.
Find local farms and businesses, for example. Many of them are thrilled to have families interested enough to come visit for a few hours, learn some new things, and have some fun.
My town has family-owned farms and a couple of glass museums that welcome families for tours during certain days and hours. We’ve seen how the experts make incredible glass pieces and the daily routines of our local farmers – all for free.
You can even call the police and fire departments to see if you can set up an hour or so to come in with your kids and learn how the departments work. You might even get lucky and see a fire truck take off!
4. Join a Community Sports League
Ask your local YMCA or check with your family and friends for local sports leagues that your family can join.
Some towns have family-friendly leagues for people of all ages, which are a great way to spend quality time outside with your family doing something active and fun.
You can also check out Sportsvite, a website that lists open leagues looking for players. Those in metro areas will have better luck here, but there are also listings for various regions in every state across the United States.
5. Clean Out the Closets
Cleaning may not sound like fun for the family, but it can be when you make it purposeful. Have everyone comb through their rooms, searching closets and junk drawers for any clothes or toys they want to donate to charity.
You can even hold a contest, offering a special treat for whoever comes up with the most items to donate.
First, turn on some music to get the family energized and ready to work. Then, spend an hour or two rummaging through your stuff and placing everything in boxes.
Once you’re done, you can take the kids with you to Goodwill or your local donation center to get a first-hand look at the donation process and see how their stuff can help others.
6. Start a Family Blog
You no longer need to be a web expert to start a blog, and there are plenty of free blogging platforms to use, like Wix and WordPress.com. Gather the family, pick out a theme, and start writing!
You can blog about your favorite books and movies, recipes your family makes together, or your favorite DIY projects. Or, blog about all your free family adventures!
Whatever you decide to write about, be sure to get everyone involved. Even young kids just learning how to read and write can draw some pictures, take photos, or come up with ideas for your blog.
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7. Have Some Cuddle Time and TV Bingeing
If you have a Netflix, Hulu, or another streaming TV account, put it to good use and make a full weekend day all about the cuddles and binge-watching of your favorite family-friendly shows.
There’s no need to feel guilty about too much screen time, either. Use this as a once-in-a-while treat, rather than something you do every weekend. It’s perfect for a rainy day!
Also, spend time after each episode to talk about the moral of the story and your kids’ reactions to the plot, characters, and anything else on their brains.
8. Try Out a Local Fitness Class
Get fit and have fun with your kids! Check with your nearby YMCA to see what family fitness classes it has available and ask if you can try it out for free. Some fitness centers and dance studios will also let you try a class before you sign up; take advantage of it!
You might even find three or four free trial classes over the course of a weekend for a perfectly fun, fit, family weekend.
9. Make Time for Crafts and DIYs
Nothing beats a crafting day at home. Most households with kids already have plenty of items available to use for crafts, like markers, stickers, ribbons, paper, etc. What you don’t have, get creative with!
You can also recycle things you have around the house for bigger DIY projects to make with the family. Break up some old wooden pallets to make an outdoor bench or planter.
Try using some old wire hangers, gather flowers, branches, and leaves, and create a few decorative wreaths for your home.
10. Have a Photography Contest
Gather up all the cameras and cell phones you have and take the family on a nature walk around your neighborhood to snap some pictures.
I like to bring my kids to the city park and have them take candid photos of each other, or to the nearby pond to take some photos of the ducks.
To make it even more fun, you can create a family photo contest. Post the photos on your Facebook profile and, without naming which of your family members took each photo, have your Facebook friends vote on their favorites by liking, reacting, or commenting on the one they like best.
11. Volunteer Your Time
There’s not much better to do with your family than volunteer your time helping others.
Not only can it be an excellent way to get out of the house and experience something new for free, but it also helps you bond as a family and teach your kids about the importance of helping others.
Call your local homeless shelter, library, or animal shelter to see if they need help. Most places will be happy to find something for you to do as a family!
Here are a few more volunteering ideas:
- Gather canned goods to donate to the food pantry
- Visit an assisted living complex or nursing home to read or sing to residents
- Contact your local parks department and ask if it’s okay to plant some trees
- Make dinner for your neighbors
- Clear sidewalks of snow for elderly neighbors
- Clean up litter in public areas around town
- Drive nursing home residents or elderly neighbors to doctor’s appointments
- Visit sick children at the hospital
12. Make a Time Capsule
Tell your kids to gather up a few of their things they love right now (or, take pictures of their favorite things!) and place everything in a “time capsule” to bury in the backyard.
Your kids will have fun looking at everyone’s favorite items, telling stories about them, and wondering how their interests will change in the future.
Mark a calendar with the date and set a goal to open your time capsule one year from now.
13. Head to the Library
Our local library has, for years, been one of my favorite places to go for free fun. My kids love it as much as I do. I’ve noticed that a lot of families have no idea that their local library offers so many awesome things to do – for free! – until I tell them to call and ask.
For example, my library has free story time classes for my youngest child and free young adult movie, craft, and game nights for my oldest.
The library also hosts tons of family events for holidays, the end of the school year, and other noteworthy times throughout the year.
Even on non-event days, we spend a lot of time there picking out books, playing quietly with toys in the kids’ area, and researching new things on the computers.
Most libraries aren’t open on Sundays. Visit on a Saturday and pick up several books and movies to enjoy on Sunday.
14. Play Board Games with Friends
Game nights make some of the best nights – and they’re 100% free when you use the games you already have. If you’ve already played them several times, let your kids make up their own rules to make them like new.
Better yet, invite a couple of other families over to join in the fun and ask them to bring their favorite games with them. You all get to try out some new games and enjoy each other’s company without spending a dime.
15. Make the Most of the Season
Don’t let the changing seasons go to waste. They make the perfect backdrop for some family fun, and all you need to do is step outside.
- In the summer: Set up your sprinkler in the backyard and act like a kid with your kids. For some extra fun, lay a large tarp down on the grass and make your own slip-and-slide.
- In the fall: Raking huge leaf piles to jump in them is a long-loved tradition for families. You can also go on a scavenger hunt to see who can find the most colors of leaves or the longest tree branch.
- In the winter: Go sledding, build a snowman, or make snow forts for snowball fights. Grab a trash can lid, find the nearest hill, and go sledding.
- In the spring: Start a garden with your kids. There are plenty of vegetables and herbs that don’t require a lot of care and you can start growing them from ones you already have. For example, you can cut off a piece of a potato that’s started sprouting a couple of eyes and plant it in dirt to grow a new plant. Check out this list of foods to grow from kitchen scraps for more ideas.
16. Redo a Room
It obviously takes money to redesign a room in your home. However, if you’re planning a redesign in the near future, why not enlist the help of the kids to get everything planned before you get to work?
Your kids will have a blast playing around with colors and styles, and they’ll feel like an important part of the design process.
17. Rent Free Movies on Redbox
I love Redbox for family movies. Its prices are already inexpensive, and if you sign up for an account, you can get free movies from promotions or after renting a certain number of them.
But, there are also other ways you can get Redbox codes that let you rent movies for free more often.
First, sign up for the Redbox newsletter. You’ll immediately get a code for a free rental. Then download the Redbox app for your mobile device, which can also land you a free movie code!
There’s also the Redbox Text Club, which sends free rental codes and discounts to your mobile device.
You can usually only use one free rental code at a time, but if you don’t mind visiting your nearest kiosk a few times, you can have a free movie weekend easily.
18. Go on a Geocaching Adventure
I once took my kids Geocaching in a neighboring town and it was one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had as a family. We love being outside anyway, but geocaching took our outdoor adventure to another level.
Geocaching is basically like a huge treasure hunt around your neighborhood. You use GPS to find your way to the next item, which is always some sort of treasure that another person has left there.
On our geocaching adventure, we went from place to place searching for hidden pieces of artwork left by local artists.
Any “geocacher” can leave an item somewhere and then register it in the geocaching database with the exact GPS coordinates so other geocaching adventurists can find it.
Once you track it down, you can usually sign your name in a log near the item to prove you’ve been there.
You can make geocaching treks as long or short as you want them to be (little kids get worn out easily on these big adventures!). Head to Geocaching.com to see what’s available in your area and learn more about the process.
19. Have a Bowling Tournament
Going to the bowling alley can be a fun outing, but it usually costs money. That is unless you find a center that participates in the Kids Bowl Free Program!
Search for bowling centers near you that participate in this awesome program, which offers kids two free bowling games every day during the summer.
Each center can determine the participating ages for the program, so just be sure to call ahead to work out the details.
20. Camp Out
Make your own campground in your backyard with a tent and sleeping bags. Your kids will love this new adventure.
Bring some jars outside to catch fireflies before you go to sleep. Start a campfire and roast marshmallows or make S’mores. You can even set up a game of cornhole or horseshoes in your backyard camping spot!
21. Visit a Zoo
One of my family’s favorite outings is visiting zoos in our area. Most zoos aren’t very expensive to begin with, but it’s even better when you can get admission for free.
Some zoos, especially smaller ones, offer free admission on specific days through the year to cater to families with kids who want to save some money. Check the website calendars of your nearby zoos to see if they offer free admission days.
You can also opt for a zoo membership. You’ll have to pay upfront, but the cost usually pays for itself after one or two visits.
When you have a membership, you can go a lot more often and create a new experience every time by visiting different sections on each trip, watching shows, etc.
With a little imagination, you and your family will be loaded with fun activities to try for weekends to come. Take advantage of what’s in your own neighborhood and town first – you might be surprised by what it offers!
What ideas on this list do you love? What other free family-friendly activities would you add? Let us know in a comment!